We have had vulgar Presidents—Nixon and Johnson come to mind—but the present President’s new communication’s director has reached a new low in crudeness to communicate to the public and rip the chief of staff. He claims it was authorized by the President and, judging from some of the President’s dialect, we can believe Scaramucci. However, it raises the question of what degree of civility and respect we should expect of a public servant. The present verbiage from the Whitehouse goes beyond “freedom of speech” and exemplifies “men without chests,” as C.S. Lewis once put it.
Lewis was replying and commenting in his book (“The Abolition of Man”) to three men who were educators who needed “to be awakened from the slumber of cold vulgarity” (p. 13). He did not find the men to conform to reason. The book the men produced (Lewis calls it “The Green Book”) produces “what may be called “Men without Chests” (p.25). It is men that have heads “no bigger than the ordinary: it is the atrophy of the chest beneath that makes them seem so” (ibid). Lewis attributes their presence to what our civilization has produced: “We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise” (p. 26).
In an op-ed column on May 1, 2017, the New York Times carried a piece by Charles M. Blow called “Trump’s degradation of the language” in which he describes it as “some manner of sophistry peppered with superlatives…a jumble of incomplete thoughts stitched together with arrogance and ignorance.”
Given that the Times and its writers are not lovers of Trump (or conservatives in general), we can pause to see just what Blow may mean. If it is hyperbole to say that his speech represents that of “students in grades 6-8” (at best), it may be the “way generals and dictators have always spoken to distinguish themselves from the caviling civilians.”
We should notice that the Times writer Blow and the people he quotes are just as vicious in their demeaning of Trump as the President and his men are of the Times. We seem to be at an impasse: insult with vulgarity or insult with sophistication. The main point is to belittle and demean the other person or party. We see it in our politics everyday and we often see it in the way Christians and their denominations treat each other.
We read in Romans 3:13-14 (GNT) that no one is righteous and “[t]heir words are full of deadly deceit; wicked lies roll off their tongues, and dangerous threats, like snake’s poison, from their lips; their speech is filled with bitter curses,” so all of us are under the potential power of sin. Nevertheless, our “speech should always be pleasant and interesting, and you should know how to give the right answer to everyone” (Colossians 4:6, GNT).
Further, crudity and vulgarity are outside of the use of language for Christians (Ephesians 5:4) and lead only to “foolish arguments of what some people wrongly call ‘knowledge’” (1 Timothy 6:20.
This isn’t cherry-picking proof texts and verses: it is a general principle of what God expects of Christians. This leads us to the conclusion that some of the President’s men are not Christians or, if they are, a specific sub-set of Christians that don’t care what their language sounds like. Semantics may be as vague to them as politeness, courtesy and respect.